UK critics of ex-PM Thatcher rally in London

Hundreds of former coal miners and other opponents of Margaret Thatcher gather to "celebrate" ex-leader's recent death.

    About 200 opponents of Margaret Thatcher filled London's Trafalgar Square in the rain for a "party" to "celebrate" the former British prime minister's death earlier this week.

    Thatcher's most strident critics had long vowed to hold a gathering in central London following her passing, and the festivities on Saturday were an indication of the depth of the hatred which some Britons still feel for their former leader.

    "We've been waiting a long time for this," Richard Watson, a 45-year-old from eastern England wearing a party hat, said. "It's an opportunity of a lifetime."

    There was a strong police presence for the demonstration, after trouble erupted at several impromptu street celebrations following Thatcher's death from a stroke on Monday at the age of 87.

    The mood on Saturday appeared festive and was peaceful, with one scuffle with police.

    Five people were arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly or for inflicting grievous bodily harm, police said.

    Among the crowd on Saturday were ex-miners from the north of England, who saw their communities devastated in a wave of pit closures during Thatcher's 11 years in power from 1979 to 1990.

    David Douglass, a former miner and member of the National Union of Mineworkers from Yorkshire, said: "We're absolutely furious at this image that is being presented on television, that the whole country is in mourning."

    Elsewhere on Saturday, some fans of Liverpool football club held up anti-Thatcher banners at a Premier League match reading "We're gonna have a party" and chanted "Maggie's dead, dead, dead".

    'Tearful week'

    Several of those attending said they were also planning to protest at Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday by lining the processional route and turning their backs when her coffin goes past.

    Thatcher's coffin will be taken to St Paul's Cathedral through streets lined with members of the armed forces.

    Carol Thatcher, the former premier's daughter, earlier spoke to reporters on Saturday for the first time since Thatcher's death.

    "I know that this is going to be a tough and tearful week, even for the daughter of the Iron Lady," she said.

    Thatcher's death has sparked fierce debate about her legacy in Britain. 

    Her admirers credit her with helping to end the Cold War and reinvigorating the British economy after decades of decline.

    But left-wing opponents accuse her of pushing a ruthlessly individualistic agenda and putting millions out of work with her radical free-market reforms.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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